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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Keeping Warm

Some of our regular readers know, five years ago we lived in our van for about nine months. Through the winter. It wasn't fun. But we did learn some things that may be useful to help those of you living in cars, poorly insulated buildings, or tents, to keep warm this winter. This goes beyond all that 'seal things up', blah blah blah stuff you get from the electric company, which is fairly useless anyways if you don't live in a house.

(An aside to those stupid bitches that disparage the poor people who have to give up their pets because their home has gone into foreclosure, you know, the ones who insist they would 'live in their car with all their pets' before they would give them up. You, shut the fuck up. I've done it, it's NOT easy, and we had a piece of property to park our van on. You probably wouldn't last a week.)

Sorry about that, but it needed to be said. On to keeping warm.

First, heat rises. I'm sure you know this. But many people do not take advantage of it. To do so, all you need to do it lower the ceiling. Fasten a sheet or blanket a couple of feet down on the wall, to create a false ceiling. It will keep the heat down where the people are.

Second, cover the windows. If you need light and don't really care about seeing out, you can use double-sided tape to fasten bubble wrap to your windows. This will insulate the window. You can also buy heavy drapes, or make them. Draperies work best when they fit tightly to the side of the windows so cold air doesn't infiltrate the house. Windows in a car can be covered from the outside with a car cover or blankets, or a cover can be duct taped to the inside. Those shiny things meant to keep the sun out also work pretty well.

Third, if your walls are poorly insulated, cover them. Hang blankets or sleeping bags on the walls. You can also suspend them from the ceiling a few inches away from the wall to create an air-space between the blanket and the wall that is insulating.

The fourth one is for your pets. If you are keeping the heat down to save money this winter, please get down on the floor where your pets are and see how cold it is down there. Provide an elevated bed or thick bedding for your pets. Inexpensive sleeping bags work well to reflect the pet's body warmth back to it, and little dogs will enjoy going down inside the bag. A 'dog sweater' for a medium or large sized dog is cheap to make from a child or small adult sweatshirt; just cut off the sleeves and split it up the back, place it on the pet, and tie the two sides of the split together to snug it to the dog's body. We used sweatshirts for our Greyhounds each winter, to help keep them warm. The cut off sleeves make good sweaters for small pets, just cut two leg holes and use the cuff for the neck. Pets who have trouble keeping warm will lose weight in the winter; a little extra fat in the diet will help, if your pet tolerates it. A good dog house is a must for outdoor dogs, indoor dogs might appreciate a covered bed or pen to sleep in.

Fifth, if you actually are living in a car, tent or box, try to get a propane heater. We recommend the Mr. Buddy heaters. They have an automatic shutoff if the oxygen gets low so are safe to use indoors, and can be attached to a barbeque sized propane tank with a hose. There is another brand called Dynaglo which we do not recommend, they do not usually last the winter. If you use a heater that does NOT have an automatic shutoff, crack a window near the heater or your friends might be reading about your death from carbon monoxide. You can get a CO2 detector that runs on batteries from Walmart for about twenty-bucks; a good investment.

Sixth, cover your head. It might seem stupid to wear a hat or hood in the house, but it's useful for sleeping when it's cold, you won't lose as much of your body heat.

Seventh, hang a sheet or blanket over the opening to your outside door. It will keep warm air near the ceiling from escaping when you open the door and keep the room a lot warmer.

If anyone else has any tips, please feel free to add them in the comments.

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